Archive for the ‘Anza-Borrego’ Category

Drought and feasting in the desert

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

March began with Pacific storms bringing high winds and much needed rain to San Diego (and rainbows to Tucson), but not enough to relieve the historic drought in California as our Airstream Safari settled in to bask in the Anza-Borrego sun.  California’s water supply is dependent on the snowpack, which is only 24% of average.  Late Sunday afternoon, we arrived at Agua Caliente County Park and saw a sign saying, “Due to loss of power, the pool is closed”.  We learned that the campground was without electrical power all weekend due to high winds in the mountains that brought down utility poles and lines.  New utility poles were helicoptered in and power was restored to the park Sunday afternoon.

DSC_0001 Windswept sky over dry desert

Scant rainfall has diminished the display of green leaves and spring wildflowers normally seen here at this time of year.  I photographed the meager display of Brittlebush flowers in back of our Safari, while our Corgi, Mac, kept an eye on me from inside the trailer.

DSC_0037 Agua Caliente campsite 2014

Recent sprinkles here enabled ocotillo to produce crimson flowers even though their stems had minimal foliage.  This is in sharp contrast with the blankets of spring wildflowers that we saw in Anza-Borrego 6 years ago.

DSC_0035 Crimson ocotillo flowers, few leaves

In the lower part of the campground that receives more water runoff, I spotted a Beavertail cactus with showy flowers.

DSC_0083 Beavertail cactus flowers

We enjoy incorporating themes into every camping trip as a fun way to celebrate a variety of seasonal events through feasting and setting up of festive displays. On Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, we celebrated by cooking blueberry pancakes on our Volcano Collapsible Stove.*

DSC_0010 Cooking blueberry pancakes

Larry dusted the pancakes with powdered sugar.  (The lush oleander seen in the background is slated for removal because it is considered non-native and poisonous, even though in California and Texas it is naturalized as a median strip planting.  We will miss the privacy and shade that this plant provides.)

DSC_0014 Larry dusting pancakes

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day,* is associated with the Mardi Gras custom of eating richer, fatty foods just before the beginning of Lent.

DSC_0020 Fat Tuesday pancakes

This scrumptious pancake dish was so good, I could eat it with a fork in each hand! Topped with maple syrup, butter, and bacon, these pancakes were the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras,* while taking in the beauty of the Anza-Borrego Desert and sky!*

DSC_0030 Scrumptious pancake dish

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cooking up in the desert

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Georgia was having an ice storm, a foot of snow was accumulating in the Northeast, and others were making their way to Alumaflamingo through unexpectedly freezing temperatures while our Airstream Safari was settling in under balmy desert skies and a waxing moon.

DSC_0203 Safari in candle & moonlight

Despite the currently worst drought in California since 1977,* creosote bushes near our Agua Caliente campsite managed to put on a display of their bright yellow flowers.

DSC_0276 Creosote bush blooms

Bert and Janie drove down from their campsite at Pegleg for a day of feasting and conversation.

DSC_0265 Bill & Larry, Janie & Bert

Larry fired up our 18″ wok and stir-fried shrimp, pork, choy sum, baby Shanghai bok choy, celery, and onion with oyster sauce, which was tossed with shirataki noodles,* utilizing extra long handled wok shovels.

DSC_0260"Just look like you're cooking"

DSC_0263 Stir-fried shrimp & pork

Janie is seen smiling in the photo above because I had just commented that Bert’s crouching to get his shot reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s acting cameo in Apocalypse Now,* when he said, “Don’t look at the camera…just go by like you’re fighting,” which prompted me to say, “Make like you’re cooking!”

DSC_0200-2 Helicopter practice

Military helicopters also spiced up the day by making practice fly-bys and nighttime landings in the dark.

Temperatures were also cooking up in the desert as the week progressed, requiring us to turn on the air conditioner on most days, but by 4 pm the sun sank below the nearby mountain ridge and we enjoyed dinners at the picnic table while taking in the desert landscape and sky at dusk.

DSC_0241 Desert dusk

We raised our glasses and toasted to our 43rd anniversary of being together as a beautiful full moon rose above the nearby ocotillo on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

DSC_0282 Desert full moon & ocotillo

As darkness fell, moonlight lit up the desert and our imagination of far away, exotic and romantic places.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

Safari hunt for wild horses

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Auspiciously, our relaunch of desert camping and return to Borrego Springs occurred on the two-year anniversary of our first photo shoot of sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda‘s The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head, when Bert Gildart (“Year of the Dragon”) and I (“In pursuit of dragons and pearls“) photographed Larry offering a pearl (symbolizing wisdom) for the dragon to chase.*

The Serpent is one of many metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda* on the Galleta Meadows Estate owned by Dennis Avery* (who sadly passed away on July 23, 2012).  Although I have photographed many of his sculptures (See “Springtime in Galleta Meadows“), there are many more that we have not seen, so upon our return to Borrego Springs, we wanted to find, visit and photograph the horses, especially since Chinese New Year 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac (Find your fortune).*

DSC_0093 Borrego Springs' horses

When we first arrived at Christmas Circle, we spotted two horses pulling a stagecoach, but we wanted to do a photo shoot with the wild horses, so we checked the Sculpture Installations Map and drove down S3 to find them.  We were not disappointed.  As we arrived, a sabertooth cat was attacking one.

DSC_0035 Attacked by saber-tooth cat

I set up my camera while Larry put on his Chinese peasant outfit of the 1880′s consisting of a tunic, trousers, coolie hat and sandals.  He then offered a wedge of cabbage to the first horse, which appeared skittish.

DSC_0040 Offering to skittish horse

He was more successful when he offered two wedges (Number 2 is a lucky number in Chinese culture).

DSC_0058-2 Offering 2 for good luck

Larry illustrated one of the themes of the I Ching hexagram 34, Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great, “Perseverance furthers“.

DSC_0082 I "Perseverance furthers"

“Perseverance brings good fortune.”

DSC_0075-2 Acceptance

DSC_0095 Happiness

We are hopeful for good fortune as we gallop into this Year of the Wood Horse, but it might be a wild ride!  For good luck, we cleaned and decorated the house with Chinese symbols and red and gold colors.  Our Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner featured roasted Chinese duck, Chinese mustard green/ham egg flower soup, and jiaozi, Chinese dumplings (See “Where Dumplings Came From and Why Eat Them on New Years,“* which has a quick image of jiaozi in our trailer)!

DSC_0190 CNY 2014 dinner

Time passes, but our hearts remain young as we celebrate life!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert camping relaunched

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

We stayed home for the holidays in December as we followed the activity progression schedule prescribed for Tasha by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital* following her hemilaminectomy due to a ruptured disc last November.  She has made an excellent recovery and has resumed her normal routine and activities so we relaunched our monthly camping trips and returned to Borrego Palm Canyon where we had made our maiden cruise seven years ago this month.

DSC_0162 Borrego Palm Canyon 2014

Tasha quickly learned to use the gangplank (Mr. Herzher’s Smart Ramp) that we recently purchased for our corgis to embark and disembark our Airstream Safari without injuring their backs.

DSC_0152 Tasha & telescoping ramp

As I unhitched and set up the campsite, I heard a drone hovering high above me, which turned out to be a DJI Phantom Quadcopter with a GoPro camera* controlled by Airstreamer, photographer Rich C, who we first met here seven years ago.  (See his driving and aerial video tour of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park* that includes a brief clip of me setting up camp!).  According to Rich, he “is currently on the road contracting and consulting in his ‘other career’… network and data base design.”

DSC_0139 DJI Phantom Quadcopter

The DJI Phantom Quadcopter elevates scenic photography to a new high!*

Last Friday our governor declared a California statewide drought emergency.  Our severe drought has limited the growth of plants, flowers, and seeds that sustain birds.  We were amazed, mesmerized and entertained by the numbers of birds (especially house finches and White-crowned Sparrows) that fought over the seeds from our Soda Bottle Bird Feeder by Channel Craft.  White-winged Doves and Gambel’s Quail also visited and added to the chorus of bird sounds.

DSC_0014 Soda bottle bird feeder

We also feasted. Larry is seen below preparing vegetables for a stir-fry using Zha Jiang Mian Sauce and Shirataki (sweet yam) noodles.

DSC_0024 Vegetable prep for Japchae

Rich and Jodi joined us for dinner on Monday.  On Wednesday, I joined them for a hike up Palm Canyon.

DSC_0113 Hiking with Rich & Jodi

Rich has a good eye for getting that perfect picture.  He is seen here setting up his camera on a tripod placed in a creek for a time exposure image of a waterfall.  (See Rich’s images in his post, “Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego“.)

DSC_0117 Rich, tripod & falls

We were all happy campers during our five days of glorious sunshine.  (See Rich’s video wrap-up*)  Even our dogs had happy faces as they trotted on the 0.6-mile sidewalk to the Visitor Center.

DSC_0156 Happy Tasha & Mac

Indeed, Happy days are here again!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Shifting sands at Agua Caliente

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

We had just finished celebrating Día de los Muertos* and brought along Larry’s homemade anise pan de muerto for our return to Agua Caliente County Park for five nights of camping in the sunny Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0029 Larry's Anise pan de muerto

DSC_0114 Desert bound

It was not so sunny here in late August when a weekend of heavy rains unleashed flash floods, rock slides, shifting sand and mud, causing damage to roads, parks, and homes.  When we made our November reservations for this park at the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Administrative Office in September, an administrator there told us that about $10,000 worth of damage had occurred and that the park was closed for repairs,* but would be expected to be open at least by November.  When we checked in, Supervising Park Ranger, James Stowers, said that a lot of sand had washed down onto our reserved site, but we should be able to go in and out OK.  But as I backed the trailer up into this site, the trailer tires sank into and pushed against dry, very loose, uncompacted sand (about 5″ deep), while the rear truck tires spun.

DSC_0039 Too much loose sand

Since I got the trailer far enough into the site to be workable, I unhitched, and the next morning I reported my concerns to James about the large amounts of loose sand that might make it difficult for our 2-wheel drive truck to pull our trailer out on departure day.  I was pleased that he personally got on a tractor with a front-end loader* and scooped up buckets full* of sand and placed them in eroded areas in the sites above us.  This made us smile.*

DSC_0093 Ranger removed excess sand

Beautiful sunny weather with day temperatures in the 70s also brought smiles to our faces and even my rescued childhood doll, Howdy Doody*, seemed happy as Larry worked on Howdy’s major cosmetic and clothing makeover.

DSC_0144 Desert smiles and vistas

I again hiked the Moonlight Canyon Trail, and although I did not see the bighorn sheep that I had seen in January, 2011, I did see interesting plants… and peculiar rocks.

DSC_0129 Interesting plants & rocks

I also spotted a large black widow spider on the fleece lining of our trailer tire covers!  (I always carefully inspect the covers during their removal since previously finding various spiders, a scorpion, and a field mouse!)

DSC_0149_2 Black widow spider

The spider had found a comfortable, albeit temporary home, while we were at home in the trailer.  We were cozy and content and had no idea that the sands would continue to shift for us when we got home, but at least wherever we are, home is where the heart is.*

DSC_0101 home is where the heart is

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cuyamaca Mountain high

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

While high winds roared through Southern California last Monday, causing power outages and damage in Borrego Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and dust storms in Arizona,* we were hunkered down in our Airstream Safari 4,200 feet above sea level in a pine and oak forest along the northern extremity of the Cuyamaca Mountain Range on our first full day in William Heise County Park after a 3 year absence.  By the following day, the wind and rain had stopped and we set up camp and enjoyed beautiful sunny weather the rest of the week.

DSC_0021 Heise campsite setup

On Wednesday, our good friends Bert and Janie came up from Borrego Springs for a day of hiking, photography, feasting, conversing and having a good time.

DSC_0039 Bert with new Nikon D800E

Bert brought along his new Nikon D800E.*  Bert and I promptly took our Nikon cameras on a hike on the Cedar Creek Trail, while Janie and Larry enjoyed chatting at our campsite.  As soon as we got on the trail, we were happy to spot a couple of mule deer.

DSC_0042 Deer on Cedar Creek Trail

We enjoyed photographing the rich textures of this oak, pine and cedar forest and delighted in the play of light and shadows.

DSC_0051 Bert shooting bench & trees

We returned to camp just in time for lunch that Larry was preparing:  Caldo de Mariscos (based on a recipe by Chef Rick Bayless*), a medley of squid, catfish, shrimp, and baby Bok choy (Chinese cabbage) simmered in a tomato-based soup, seasoned with guajillo chilies.

DSC_0090 Larry's Caldo de Mariscos

This savory dish brought smiles to all.

DSC_0094 Lunch with Bert & Janie

This is the second time this month that Bert has been observed slurping the last drops of soup out of his bowl (Japanese style).  The first time was recorded in Aluminarium’s blog post, “Bottoms Up!”

DSC_0096 Drinking soup Japanese style

We sipped on wine and shared our thoughts during this mellow afternoon.  We celebrated our wonderful times together this camping season: at Agua Caliente County Park last October and then celebrating life with a lunch, hike and photo shoot in November.  This truly was a mountain high* and we look forward to many more in the future!

DSC_0201 Mellow afternoon at Heise

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cabinization of our parks

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

It was love at first sight when we arrived at Agua Caliente County Park for the first time in November 2010.  We were thrilled that this park now allowed dogs and we scouted out the best site for our style of camping away from crowds.  We didn’t mind that the sites did not have Wi-Fi or cell phone reception without using special antennas or boosters.  This site was just big enough for our trailer and was nestled near mountains and had gorgeous vista views.

DSC_0125 Our 1st Agua Caliente site

DSC_0007 Vista view from our site

This quickly became our favorite desert camping site, so you can imagine our shock last fall to learn that we could not reserve this site or any of the other eleven RV sites on this southeast loop of the park because cabins were about to be built there!

DSC_0041 SE loop with 12 RV sites

So we reserved an alternative site and returned to Agua Caliente Regional Park last October and began documenting the “progress” of cabins replacing RV sites.  Our favorite site had already been leveled and fenced in.*

DSC_0045 Our site fenced in

By January, the foundations were in place for seven Agua Caliente cabins that the Annual Parks Improvement Plan estimated will cost $500,000.

DSC_0067 Agua Caliente cabin foundation

Although this initially shocked me, I can understand and sympathize with the dilemma many camping parks are experiencing.  Economic hard times over the past few years have undoubtedly caused some people to camp less, and stay closer to home, while parks and campgrounds have experienced increased costs and decreased funding, which have resulted in cutbacks in staffing and services.  Additionally, “Today’s [sequester] Cuts Mean Wide-Ranging Impacts for Parks – and – People around the Country”, writes Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association, and detailed in the National Parks Conservation Association’s Park Advocate posting of March 1, 2013.  “Funding Discussion Shares Creative Solutions for National Park Funding Woes”, writes Tom in an article for the Huffington Post Green Blog, 3/20/2013.

One solution for some camping parks is to provide cabins to attract new campers who are not ready to invest in camping gear or an RV.  “California State Parks have endured hard times and budget cuts for a number of years now…  Our proposal to revitalize and reopen Tamarisk Grove Campground was selected by California State Parks for a special grant last March… 10 new cabins will be built onsite to give folks an alternative to tent or trailer camping”, writes Kathy Dice, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Superintendent, in her “Superintendent’s Corner” of the Anza-Borrego Foundation‘s Desert Update, Fall 2012 issue.

DSC_0020 Cabins nearing completion

As the Agua Caliente cabins are nearing completion, I still have mixed emotions about cabins replacing RV sites.  Cabins are structures that permanently occupy space and block views, especially noticeable in this vast desert setting.*  New cabins in wooded settings, such as William Heise County Park*, seem to tie in better with the surroundings and are less obtrusive.

DSC_0026 SE loop with 7 cabins

Agua Caliente Campground is also currently upgrading its electrical service to include 50 amp power and eliminate the power poles, and plans to upgrade the sewer system.  The plan also calls for new RV sites… eventually.  But as the documentary Surviving Progress* points out, we must make a distinction between good progress and bad progress.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert views and illuminations

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Our celebrations of life continued last week as we took our Airstream Safari and Airstream Life, Spring 2013 issue, and our dogs, Mac and Tasha, out to Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert for five days of camping under a glorious sun while celebrating my birthday and the imminent arrival of St. Pat’s Day and Spring!  This issue of Airstream Life features an article, “Airstreaming With Pets”, which lists considerations when traveling and camping with pets.

DSC_0006 Airstream Life Spring 2013

(The kissing Corgis salt and pepper shakers were given to us by our dear friend Beverly.)

Our dogs have always joined us over the past six years of camping trips with the Airstream and I have posted the article, “Traveling and Pet Safety“.  The Corgis always travel in a crate strapped on the folded down back seat of the F-250, and wear a Nite Dawg LED illuminated dog collar* with a flashing feature by Nite Ize for safety and visibility at night around the campsite and while taking nighttime walks.

DSC_0042 Illuminated dog collars

Our campsite was illuminated each day by a bright sun and Larry’s sun screen sheet and toucan decorative banners provided shade, privacy and a festive display.

DSC_0010 Alternative site

The softer seascape images on the back of the sun screen gently undulate in the breeze providing shade and privacy.

DSC_0033 View from door

I again hiked the 2.5 mile loop of the Moonlight Canyon Trail, where I photographed bighorn sheep last November, but no sheep were visible and the spring flower display was meager due to scant rainfall this winter.  But I did find Chuparosa, Justicia californica, in bloom near the saddle of the trail.

DSC_0049 Chuparosa

Although the spring wildflowers were lacking, the desert presented an abundant display of subtle colors and textures of rocks and plants such as the ocotillo, agave, and cholla, which I appreciated as I climbed up the Desert Overlook Trail and enjoyed the vista views.

DSC_0056 Desert Overlook Trail

The trail climaxes on a ridge with a wonderful view of the whole park.

DSC_0068 Agua Caliente County Park

Agua Caliente Regional Park* of San Diego County is a 910-acre park next to the Tierra Blanca Mountains and features pools and a therapeutic indoor spa, trails, and spectacular views.  This park, along with many others across the country, is undergoing major changes, and I will shed light on some of these changes in my next post.

In the meantime, Round up your mates for a GUINNESS on St. Patrick’s Day.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

One Earth, many celebrations

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

One Earth, our Earth, robust with a magnificent array of diverse flora, fauna, and elements, provides infinite opportunities to celebrate all that there is here and beyond, including the past, present, and future.  One moon, our moon, was a new moon last week, heralding the beginning of the Chinese New Year as we returned to the Anza-Borrego Desert during a week filled with anniversaries and special occasions!

(Photo Credit: NASA, Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday, Larry set up his Chinese New Year’s display outside while I set up for a photo shoot inside our Airstream Safari to commemorate some of the other significant occasions of the week, such as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday*, Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, and our 42nd Anniversary (special wine provided by our good friend Casey)!

According to Wikipedia, Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.  It is also called the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, and is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar.  It is a time for house cleaning and family reunions and feasts.  Chinese New Year 2013*, the Year of the Water Snake*, began on February 10 and ends 15 days later with the Lantern Festival.

I confess that on Shrove Tuesday I did have a good time photographing and eating blueberry pancakes that Larry made to celebrate Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the last day and night of the Carnival season, which is celebrated by eating richer, fatty foods, such as pancakes.  This day is also known as Pancake Day in the UK, where pancake races* are held.

Blueberries were added for their good taste, nutritional, and their antioxidant qualities.*  A female hummingbird joined us for brunch.

On Thursday, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, which also marked our 42nd Anniversary.  On the table is seen homegrown Bird of Paradise flowers, a Year of the Snake figurine, Chinese gold ingots (for wealth and prosperity), Mardi Gras beads, and a Valentine’s Day teddy bear* with good tidings.

We also celebrated our desert surroundings of flora and fauna basking in the sun shining in the blue sky… a diversity of life connected by the classical elements.

This theme is projected by Richard Blanco in his One Today poem, read by him at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Following stars and gold

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Clear starry skies were seen on Twelfth Night, an auspicious sign for our successful return to the Anza-Borrego Desert on Epiphany, also known as Día de los Reyes, The Day of the Kings.  A new study suggests that the Magi, following a star, journeyed from the Far East (China) on a spice trade route, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

(Photo credit: Nina Aldin Thune, Magi, Wikimedia Commons)

Away from most light pollution, we enjoyed the dark desert skies filled with stars.  (See previous article, [Earth] “Once dark, now too bright!“)

We did turn on Larry’s New Year’s display lights for yet another celebration of life, including Epiphany, also known as “The Day of the Lights”.

Epiphany also marks the beginning of the Carnival season, which continues through Shrove Tuesday.  Since this season is also known as “king cake season”, Larry adapted a Panettone recipe by Mario Batali and added candied fruit, rum, and brandy.

We shared this delicious cake with the campground rangers and hosts.

We also fed the hummingbirds, such as Anna’s Hummingbird seen below.

Seen below is a Costa’s Hummingbird, which is typically smaller and, according to Wikipedia, “The male Costa’s Hummingbird’s most distinguishing feature is its vibrant purple cap and throat with the throat feathers flaring out and back behind its head.”

We were also nourished by food for thought in the form of books and magazines, and by listening to KPBS via 97.7 FM Calexico, which brought us the sad news of the death of Public TV travel star and host, Huell Howser.  We have followed Huell Howser’s California’s Gold series for years and have delighted in his enthusiastic visits of people and places up and down California.  View KVIE Public Television’s video, “Huell Howser – California’s Dreamer” and YouTube’s “A Farewell to Huell Howser“.  Huell donated his entire California’s Gold series to Chapman University, which may be viewed on their Huell Howser Archive website, including Episode 148, “Road Trip to Anza-Borrego“.

And so the adventure continues into 2013, and as Huell would say, “California, Here I Come“!

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.